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Political changes in Ukraine in 2019

Author : Kateryna Odarchenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

The political season of 2019 was marked by several noteworthy events both at the domestic and foreign policy levels. This year Ukraine was at the center of many mainstream political processes
17:52, 1 January 2020

Zelensky at Normandy summit
Reuters

Elections

The main events of the political 2019 year were the presidential and parliamentary elections, which changed the country's political landscape and became a reflection of public sentiment and expectations.

A convincing victory of Volodymyr Zelensky over Petro Poroshenko showed a deep level of disappointment of citizens, many unfulfilled expectations, their insecurity in their own future and the desire for qualitative changes in the political plane.

Obviously, Petro Poroshenko understood: his chances of winning the presidential race were little, but an intelligible election campaign made it possible to mobilize the electorate, as a result of which the European Solidarity political party overcame a five-percent barrier during the early parliamentary elections.

Political elites related to Petro Poroshenko immediately after the defeat faded into the background and lost influence on the course of political processes in the country.

The recipient of public sympathies and hopes was the Servant of the People party, the brand of which arose from the television series of the same name. The election campaign took place using many media and technological innovations, which showed effectiveness in the end.

During the early parliamentary elections, the Servant of the People party received a high level of support (43.16% - 124 MPs) in all-Ukranian multi-member district. Its representatives also won in 130 majoritarian single-mandate constituencies.

Thanks to this, the pro-presidential political force for the first time in the modern history of Ukraine has formed a single-member parliamentary majority.

The breakthrough of the political season was the Holos political party of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk. The party began the struggle for the favor of voters, having a rating of about 1%, and this was only due to the popularity of the leader - vocalist of the Ocean Elzy band Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.

As a result, Holos received 5,83% of voters' confidence and a got to the parliament of the ninth convocation.

Electoral Maidan: Change of political elites and electoral clusters

The political season has demonstrated the high protest potential accumulated in society during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko and before it.

This potential was largely an expression of public rejection of the entire system of state power with its obvious corruption problems and a complete lack of feedback.

During the election it was transformed into the phenomenal willingness of voters to support a new political project with the bright title “Servant of the People” and media-promoted leaders without any political background. This phenomenon was immediately called the "electoral maidan."

Many old-timers of the Ukrainian politicum, who were systematically elected in their majority districts, were well-known and respected politicians, lost to unknown candidates who were in no way connected with political activity. Their only competitive advantage was the brand “Servant of the people”.

The results of the two election campaigns also indicate a significant change in the electoral clusters.

Related: Alternative history of 2019: What if Poroshenko was re-elected for second term

During the presidential and parliamentary elections, the youth cluster turned out to be unexpectedly active, since the issue of resolving the military conflict in the eastern Ukraine and determining clear prospects for the development of the country became more relevant than ever.

The youth realized their own responsibility for the future of the country and came to the polls. People of middle and retirement age, who have made a decisive contribution to the results of the Ukrainian elections for many years in a row, did not have such an impact this time.

So, a cardinal change took place not only in post-Soviet generations of politicians, but also in generations of voters.

New government

The political season was unique in many ways. The executive and legislative branches of government immediately passed under the complete control of the head of state, which had never happened before. The authorities' approaches to reforming the judicial branch also indicate attempts to take control of the judicial branch as well.

Without the need for consultations to form a coalition, the presidential party very quickly formed and approved the Cabinet of Ministers. The ambitious goal of economic development was immediately proclaimed - to increase GDP by 40% over the next 5 years. To the end of 2020, GDP should grow by 5%, and during 2021-2024 - by 7% annually.

The formation of the government and at the same time the reduction of parliamentary committees created functional distortions. To carry out important reforms and coordinate interaction between the executive and legislative branches of government, high-quality communications and a functional connection between parliamentary committees and ministries are required.

In the 8th convocation parliament, MPs worked in 27 committees; after the early elections, their number decreased to 23. The redistribution of functionality between parliamentary committees was carried out in order to optimize and improve management efficiency.

At least such a goal has been declared. As a result, MPs refused several committees: on matters of veterans, combatants, participants in the anti-terrorist operation and people with disabilities; on issues of industrial policy and entrepreneurship; on issues of culture. On the other hand, committees on human rights, de-occupation and reintegration of temporarily occupied territories were created; as well as digital transformation committee.

The functional load of the ministries and especially the appointment of ministers in the new government were the result of complex compromises in the pro-government team. As a result, a significant number of ministerial positions went to people who do not have the necessary training and managerial experience.

The lack of high-quality results of the new government’s activities may lead to a partial or complete reboot of its composition at the beginning of 2020. There is no official information on the possible personnel rotation of Cabinet members, but this issue is being actively discussed in expert circles.

Ukraine in the American political discourse

A scandal with the publication of the transcript of telephone conversation between President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Donald Trump had significant resonance in the USA.

Ukraine was at the center of internal political confrontation of influential political forces from the United States.

Donald Trump in this conversation expressed his desire that Ukraine continue to investigate the case of the largest Ukrainian gas producer Burisma, which supervisory board previously worked for Hunter Biden, the son of the most likely candidate to be nominated for the presidency of the United States from the Democratic Party Joe Biden.

Democrats regard this position of the current president of the United States as pressure on a sovereign country. Based on this, they began the process of declaring impeachment to Donald Trump and, having a majority in the House of Representatives of the US Congress, declared a lack of confidence in him.

Among the many witnesses who took part in open hearings on the impeachment case to Donald Trump, was Marie Jovanovic, the former US ambassador to Ukraine.

The former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko was also involved in the case. He informally sided with Trump and stated that Jovanovic was passing him lists of “untouchables” - people who should not be persecuted.

Related: Cabinet of Ministers allows Naftogaz to sign gas transit agreement with Russian Gazprom

However, Marie Jovanovic, under oath in the US Congress, said that she had never given the former Attorney General Yury Lutsenko any lists of people who should not be prosecuted.

In order to avoid falling into such situations, the Ukrainian authorities need to distance themselves as much as possible from internal political processes in other countries.

Politics is information, its interpretation and communication

The electoral success of Volodymyr Zelensky and the Servant of the People in the very first months of the Verkhovna Rada was overshadowed by a large number of high-profile scandals and communication failures.

The small but experienced parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition use the mistakes of the pro-government team to their advantage.

This was manifested during the consideration of the bill “On the circulation of agricultural land” as a legislative tool for the introduction of the land market. Since there is no widespread public support for the introduction of a land market in Ukraine, the opposition is pedaling this topic in order to weaken position of the pro-government team.

In this example, we see that the establishment of channels of communication between the authorities and society in many critical areas is not enough and requires quality strengthening.

Attempts to pursue a communicative policy “without intermediaries and journalists” leads to the fact that the opposition is establishing public communications much faster and more efficiently.

The new communication formats launched by Zelensky in the form of direct video messages look much more dynamic and have high rates of views and feedback. It is only necessary to determine the priority topics for citizens, to make this format brief and as possible oriented to a wide audience.

The cornerstone of the next political season and even the off-season will be the establishment of effective direct channels of communication between the authorities and society.

The most pressing issues that are important for citizens need to be worked out proactively, suggesting discussions and taking public mood into account when making decisions.

P. S.

2019 once again showed the incontrovertible truth that public policy should be implemented by competent people. There is a growing demand for qualified patriotic politicians, for whom Ukraine is not just a state on the political map of the world, but, above all, a country with which they associate their future.

Related: Mike Pompeo to come to Ukraine on January 3 - State Department

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